If you or a person you are stewarding for, are having any issues at work, mark the date and times down to build a case. If nothing comes of it, no problem. It is better to go to a meeting with facts and data rather than saying, my supervisor “always” does this; my manager “always” does this. Also, another important item to note, is if there are witnesses.
What is a grievance? (Page 13 of Steward Handbook)
A grievance is a complaint about something the employer did or did not do:
- A violation of the collective agreement.
- A violation of federal or provincial employed related laws.
- When the employer changes the way they apply collective agreement language.
You can not grieve against another member.
Member to Member Conflict, talk to a steward! (Page 33 of Steward Handbook)
- To build solidarity in the union and the workplace.
- To protect members from a toxic workplace.
- To prevent the employer from taking disciplinary action.
Who “owns” a grievance, the union or the grievor?
The collective agreement is a contract between the employer and the bargaining agent. The union owns the grievance, not the individual employee.
Disabilities (Page 41 of Steward Handbook)
Often as a steward you will become aware of a disability when the employer disciplines someone for performance issues. Under human rights laws, employers have a legal duty to accommodate workers with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship.
Duty to Accommodate (page 45 of Steward Handbook)
Employers and unions have a legal duty to accommodate workers who fall under the terms listed in human rights laws. While the laws differ from province to province, some common items covered by human rights laws are:
- Family status
The Employer’s obligation
When someone requests accommodation, the employer must:
- Consult the union
- Determine what barriers might affect the person making the request
- Explore options to remove those barriers, and
- Accommodate to the point of undue hardship.
Discipline and Discharge (page 51 of Steward Handbook)
A steward’s job is to protect the worker’s rights and to make sure the employer is using a fair process.
In discipline and discharge cases, it is the employer’s obligation to prove that they had just cause (A valid reason to discipline or fire a worker. The worker must have done something wrong, and the punishment must “fit the crime”) to impose the discipline. This is different from other grievances where the union has to prove that the employer did something wrong.
You need to find the answers to these questions:
- Does the employer have just cause?
- Is the employer using progressive discipline (a step by step approach to discipline (see more on page 65 of Steward Handbook).
- What else might be a factor? For instance if there is a performance issue, could it be related to an illness or disability?
- If the employer is accusing the worker of insubordination. Did the employer give clear directions to the worker?
Insubordination is refusing to carry out an instruction given by a supervisor or a manager. This is just cause for discipline if all of the following are true:
- The supervisor gave the worker an order
- The order was clearlycommunicated to the employee
- The order was given by someone in a position of authority
- The employee refused to obey without having an acceptable legal reason.
- Are there mitigating factors (reasons that might justify or explain someone’s behaviour or result in a reduced penalty; See more on page 64 of Steward Handbook).
- Are there aggravating factors? (For example grievor ignored previous warnings).
If the employer has solid evidence that the grievor did something wrong, it is usually a good idea to admit this and to say that it will not happen again.